Int'l rights group calls for PH probe on 'hitmen' cops in drug war

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 7) — An international human rights group urged the Philippines to create an independent team to investigate the alleged involvement of police officers in killing for drug syndicates.

A top police official in Central Visayas earlier revealed that retired and possibly active police and military officers are hired by drug syndicates to serve as "hitmen."

The Human Rights Watch said the police chief's revelation further proves the Duterte administration's complicity in addressing drug war killings.

"Given the total failure of the police to stop these abuses, it's clear that any serious investigation of the police role in the war on drugs needs full independence," HRW Asia Director Brad Adams said on Monday.

He said the team that will be tasked to investigate should be independent from the Philippine National Police and the Office of the President.

PNP Central Visayas Regional Director Chief Superintendent Debold Sinas, in a Facebook Live interview with Cebu Daily News on October 31, said former and active police and military officers are responsible for the drug-related killings in the country, especially in Central Visayas.

"I'll admit that I think there are active police officers who are into these killings that we do not know of," he said.

The Central Visayas top cop said hitmen are also used to kill erring drug distributors, who are also part of the syndicate, who fail to transmit drug sales to collectors.

President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs has left more than 4,800 killed in various police operations, while human rights groups peg the number way beyond 12,000. The President had previously said that his "only sin against the country is the extrajudicial killings," which critics believe is an admission that the deaths are perpetrated by the state.

Palace slams HRW

The government castigated the proposal of HRW, slamming its constant "instrusion" in the country's domestic affairs.

Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo said there is nothing new in Sinas' revelation. In December 2018, an investigative report by international news agency Reuters also linked eight cops from Davao to hundreds of deaths during police operations in Quezon City. Davao City was the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"[It] cannot be a valid ground for such reckless proposal. This is not new and is no different from those hurled by desperate critiques," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

He added PNP's own Internal Affairs Service has been investigating erring police. He said the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Congress are also conducting probes on reported abuses of authorities.

"These, among other governmental bodies engaged in counterbalancing measures, are functioning. We thus reiterate our position that we do not need schooling from outsiders on how to run the country," Panelo said.